Sony // 2011 // 86 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Dawn Hunt // June 24th, 2011
Love is never ugly
I'm pretty sure love is never allowing anyone else to say your lover is ugly. You're allowed to say it all you want, right? If not, my life just got a whole lot more awkward. But, while apropos, I found the tagline a bit weird considering the message of Beastly is actually that it's what's on the inside that counts. And if that's true, then your outside can be as ugly as you want.
Anyhoo, the basic plot is a retelling of the classic Beauty and the Beast fairy tale, starring Alex Pettyfer as the Beast and Vanessa Hudgens as the Beauty. So spoilers are in relation to this.
I enjoyed Beastly. I have a soft spot for fairy tales to begin with, and this is one of my favorites. Especially the Disney animated version, which is fortunate as many of the beats of that story are played out here. Without a doubt the acting is what kept me hooked for the exceedingly brief movie (less than 90 minutes!). Pettyfer and Hudgens display genuine chemistry and their characters are what you'd expect from a retelling of this tale. But one of the things I really appreciated was the chance to see Pettyfer's Kyle act like an ass before the curse befell him. We get a nicely nuanced character who shows from the start that there are perhaps hidden depths beneath his too-polished veneer...and then he makes a conscious choice to be an ass. So when the curse hits we get a sense of satisfaction which is necessary to keep us wondering if he can in fact break the spell. And Hudgens' Lindy is not all brains and no fun, providing some backstory that lends even more suspense to whether or not these two will get together, as she has her own dreams.
Stealing the show are the supporting characters, however. Lisagay Hamilton plays Zola, Kyle's housekeeper for the past half decade. Mary-Kate Olsen plays Kendra, the witch who curses Kyle. And Neil Patrick Harris plays Will, Kyle's blind tutor. Olsen is in her element as a misunderstood classmate who is scorned by the rest of the school, Kyle in particular. She never plays Kendra as anything but self-assured, the perfect choice for someone who ultimately will use magic to teach Kyle a lesson. Hamilton provides the requisite mother figure to Kyle, and it is both her and Harris' characters who give us the scenes which mark the true growth Kyle achieves. Harris is wonderful as Will and his snarky lines are the movie's best.
But perhaps Beastly's coup de grace is the makeup transforming Kyle into the Beast. It falls within the realm of what you could potentially see happening to someone, magic or not. This was a really important element because once you interject magic into a story then you cue the audience to suspend their disbelief. But while magic was the means, this transformation was in no way otherworldly and hard to believe. If it had been too gruesome or too tame then audiences would disengage from the story. The team behind Kyle's makeup found the perfect balance and it plays well throughout the film. Aside from a few private moments with Kyle, you can forget that magic is what transformed him.
The 2.35:1 widescreen anamorphic transfer plays well, with no distracting hyper-pixelization to speak of. The only issue I had with it was the shaky-cam scenes, but that's a pet peeve of mine to begin with so take it as such. The special effects blended well, and for the most part did a more than adequate job of enhancing the story. Nothing was washed out or too saturated, and like I mentioned before, the makeup was critical to this story and it never looked fake. The Dolby 5.1 audio was more of a problem, as it was not mixed satisfactorily. There was more than one occasion where a character was speaking and I had no idea what they'd just said. Considering the release date of Beastly, something like that is not acceptable.
Extras include an alternate ending (10 min); deleted scenes (5 min); "Be Mine" music video by Kristina and the Dolls (3 min); A Classic Story Retold: The Story of Beastly (10 min) a behind-the-scenes featurette comprised of interviews with the principal actors, the director/screenplay writer as well as the author of the source material for the project ; and Creating the Perfect Beast (5 min) another behind-the-scenes featurette detailing what actor Alex Pettyfer's three-and-a-half hour daily trip to the makeup department entailed.
Just because I really felt its absence, I'll point out something without spoiling it. At the end of Beastly, I would have liked to see an additional scene with Zola, Will and Kyle. I get the arc is supposed to play as Kyle's quest to win Lindy's heart but it's a journey of self-discovery as well. He has no hope of winning her friendship, let alone her love, without losing the selfish, vain, hurtful ass he is and it's his time with Zola and Will which enables him to see himself as anything else. They are instrumental to his journey and I felt like they were cut out at the end. Plus with the film running less than 90 minutes it's not like we couldn't afford an additional three minutes with them before the final scene and credits.
Also, I never read the novel this is based on, so if this is an affront to that work then I apologize.
If you're familiar with the story of Beauty and the Beast, chances are you'll enjoy Beastly. There are a couple of twists which take the story in a slightly different direction than the trailer suggests. All in all not a bad way to spend just under an hour-and-a-half.
Guilty. Its tagline is misleading but this is innocent fun nonetheless.
Review content copyright © 2011 Dawn Hunt; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 86 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Alternate Ending
* Deleted Scenes